Stars Awarded the 2023 SBIFF Virtuosos Award including Austin Butler, Kerry Condon, Stephanie Hsu, and more!
38TH ANNUAL SBIFF’S VIRTUOSOS AWARD PRESENTED BY JANE LYNCH
- Executive director Roger Durling kicked things off with a brief introduction to the evening, as well as moderator Dave Karger, host of Turner Classic Movies. Karger noted the extensive careers of all eight panelists before showing off a montage highlighting each of their work this year.
- Jeremy Strong came out first, speaking about his series of jobs behind the scenes before making it big as an actor, including assisting the great Daniel Day-Lewis. Talking about his work on Armageddon Time, Strong shared how his role was essentially playing director James Gray’s father. As such, he felt a real responsibility to be true to the man, wanting to get access, even as Gray tried to keep him away, wanting him to craft something all his own.
- Ke Huy Quan then took the stage, sharing a similar history of behind-the-scenes jobs between the earlier stage of his career and now. Quan explained how this time helped him to better appreciate all the parts of the filmmaking process, also preparing him to play all the different parts of Waymond in Everything Everywhere All at Once. He also spoke about how Waymond helped him to grow, seeing how the character was unafraid of expressing his emotions and being seen as weak.
- Jeremy Pope was next up, speaking to his experience on The Inspection, a 19-day shoot. The film brought up a lot of emotions for him, allowing him to think about the role the movie would have played if he had seen it as a kid, the specific kind of blackness and queerness it represented. The film is loosely based on director Elegance Bratton’s journey, so Pope began the process wanting to be a sort of vessel, but during the production, he realized it was bringing out a lot of truths in himself. Because of this, it turned into sort of a healing process, also teaching Pope about the cost of being an artist, with him having to be vulnerable and put so much of himself into it.
- Stephanie Hsu arrived on stage to speak about Everything Everywhere All at Once, specifically the parking lot scene at the end. She really connected with the material and the scene, knowing that this is really what it was all about. As the movie was filmed rather sequentially, she was able to keep the emotions of this scene inside until the end. For her dual role as Joy and Jobu, Hsu shared that she thought of them as “two extremes of the same core,” each serving as a different sort of reaction to nihilism. While Joy’s reaction was to give in, thinking nothing matters, Jobu took things the other way, seeing herself as limitless, with nothing mattering. Finally, Hsu praised the crew and the working environment created by the Daniels, seeing the experience as fun and community-centered.
- Nina Hoss talked about finding the core of Sharon in Tár, turning to Mahler’s work and complicated relationship with his wife, Alma, as a sort of reference point, with Sharon being this person wanting and willing to be partnered with a genius figure. Turning to an early encounter with Cate Blanchett, Hoss shared the story of a chance meeting in Budapest, with Hoss unsure Cate would recognize her, even as the two were set to work on Tár together. However, Cate quickly shouted “Nina!” and ran over to talk, impressing Hoss’ colleague who she was eating with. Things then turned to the end of Tár, with Hoss discussing her opinion on the film. She has seen it three times, taking something different away each time. She views this as something enabled by writer/producer/director Todd Field, as he doesn’t preach, preferring to give the audience much to take away and discuss.
- Danielle Deadwyler talked about making her self-tape for Till with her son, a fellow young actor who she has worked with before. Deadwyler shared how amazing he is, and how much support he offers. Speaking to the emotional strain of working on the film, Deadwyler talked about her try-all coping strategy, involving writing, journaling, and talking with others on the set. She also shared how during the making of the film, she had a dream every night, a beautiful phenomenon that gave her a lot to think about. Deadwyler was especially glad when people told her the film was their first exposure to the Emmett Till story, as it showed the movie really was serving its purpose to educate audiences.
- Kerry Condon, after a brief detour into the context of the word feckin, talked about her storied history with The Banshees Of Inisherin director Martin McDonagh, working with him on a lot of plays. Her work in the theater helped to refine her as an actor, with the immediate reactions of the audience helping a lot with things like comic timing and blocking. While Condon agreed to do Banshees, she was initially a bit disappointed with her character, Siobhán Súilleabháin, seeing her as a bit less tough than her usual roles. However, she later saw just how much the character held back, her sort of private world. Condon also dove into one scene in the film, her character’s sort of goodbye to the island, sharing how unnerved her character was, the impact of an imagined backstory for her parents, and the clear empathy she displayed.
- Austin Butler opened up about his shyness, explaining how stumbling onto a set as a kid helped him to find his place. In playing a figure as energetic and out-there as Elvis, Butler had to reveal more and explore himself. When Elvis shut down for 6 months due to Covid, Butler stayed in Australia, knowing that if he went home, life would bleed back in and he would lose his focus. As for the hardest part of capturing the man, Butler shared that it was difficult to meld all his qualities together without delving into caricature. Also, as the film covered decades, and was shot non-sequentially, Butler had to be able to capture many different versions of Elvis. Butler also talked about the positive reaction from the Elvis family, and how it was the “best review” he received.
- Next, the full panel came out for some group questions. The first question asked the panel what behind-the-scenes jobs they’d want. Pope said directing, Hsu chose stop motion animation, Hoss and Deadwyler opted for directors of photography, Condon picked casting, and Butler said doing special effects/makeup.
- Then, Karger asked which celebrity they’d like to act as a spouse for. Pope said Deadwyler, which Hsu echoed, saying she’d like to be a part of that throuple. Hoss said she couldn’t betray Cate Blanchett, Condon threw out James Gandolfini, Butler said Marlon Brando, and Quan mentioned Tom Cruise.
- When asked about having the opportunity to do action scenes in the vein of Quan’s fanny pack fight sequence, everyone on the panel agreed that they were in.
- Karger then questioned which singer they’d want to play, much like Butler did with Elvis. Condon said she wouldn’t want to, seeing having to play someone everyone knows as a huge responsibility and challenge. She settled on Crystal Gayle, citing her long hair. Deadwyler said Alice Coltrane, Hoss chose Barbara Streisand, Hsu went for Charlie Chaplin (in a silent biopic), and Strong picked Leonard Cohen. Pope said he’d rather not choose, preferring to have the universe do so. And Quan warned that audiences don’t want to hear him sing.
- After asking the panelists to sing, with only Pope obliging, providing the room with a beautiful rendition of “What About Love,” Karger requested a movie recommendation from the year. He started by throwing out The Quiet Girl and Marcel the Shell. Butler piped in with Close, Deadwyler with Triangle of Sadness, Hoss with Aftersun, Hsu with Causeway, Pope with Causeway and Marcel, Quan with The Whale, and Strong with Navalny. With all of these great choices being taken, Condon was just plum out of suggestions!
- Jane Lynch then took the stage to hand out the Virtuoso Awards. She also shared that earlier in the night, someone had asked her for advice for young, upcoming actors. While she didn’t say this at the time (and wished that she had), she noted that they should listen to the words of great actors, something the audience had just done.